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Newsletter for 
Birdwatchers 




VOL . XXXI No. 11 & 12 
November - December 1991 



News from AWB 

Conservation of 
waterbirds and wetlands 
in the East Asia Flyway 
and objectives of a Flyway 
network 

Wetlands and migratory waterbirds in the 
East Asia Flyway are under considerable 
threat and rapid action is required to prevent 
the loss of key sites and species. Some con- 
servation and research activities relating to 
the migratory waterbirds in the Flyway have 
so far been carried out in most of the coun- 
tries, including Australia, China, Hong 
Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philip- 
pines, Taiwan, Thailand and the USSR. 
There has been some interaction between 
the various individuals and countries, eg. 
through INTERWADER. With a rapid in- 
crease in the number of studies underway in 
the different countries, there is an urgent 
need for improved coordination of the acti- 
vities of individuals working on waterbirds 
in the Flyway. 

During the last eight years, AWB has 
through its various cooperative programs 
supported numerous studies and conser- 
vation activities on migratory waterbirds in 
the Flyway. As a logical continuation of this 
work, an attempt is now being made to 
improve links between those working in the 
Flyway and to collate recent information to 
get a clear picture of the situation and prior- 
ities. It is therefore proposed that AWB 
assist in the establishment of a network of 
individuals and organizations active in the 
study and protection of waterbirds and their 
habitats in the Flyway. Initially, there will 
be an emphasis on migratory shorebirds. 

Funding for the establishment of the net- 
work has been allocated by the Australian 
National Parks and Wildlife Service, with 
some additional support from the Mac- 
Arthur Foundation and World Wide Fund 
for Nature. 

The primary objectives for the formation 
of a network of individuals working on 
waterbirds in the Flyway are: to promote the 
effective protection of important waterbird 
sites in the Flyway. to use existing inform- 
ation to identify future research needs, and 
to obtain additional required data by pro- 
viding coordination for waterbird research 
and protection activities in the Flyway. 

Activities that will be taken up include: 

1. Collation and analysis of existing 
ground and aerial count data on shore- 
bird usage of wetlands of the Flyway, in 
order to revise listings of sites of 
importance. 

2. Encouragement of wider coverage of 
the region during the midwinter water- 
fowl counts (Asian Waterfowl Census). 



3. Assistance in communication and col- 
laboration between individuals and 
organizations involved in shorebird 
research and protection in the Flyway. 
Production of a newsletter is being 
considered: it will be devoted to water- 
bird conservation and migration studies, 
colour marking and banding reports, 
important site counts, survey reports 
and so on. 

4. Promotion, organisation and arrange- 
ment of support for teams to survey and 
conduct research at important or poten- 
tially important sites on the Flyway. 

5. Support of the development of local 
agencies and units in key countries with 
expertise in waterbird research and con- 
servation. 

6. Promotion of establishment of water- 
bird reserves in each country. 

7. Promotion of international agreements 
and conventions relevant to waterbirds. 

8. Preparation of an overview document, 
with sections for each Flyway country, 
listing the important shorebird sites, 
identifying the conservation issues and 
recommended action to improve site 
protection. 

9. Collection or revision of population 
estimates of different species using the 
Flyway. 

10. Advice on research priorities in coun- 
tries in the Flyway. 

11. Production of information and educa- 
tional material about shorebird migra- 
tion in the Flyway. 

12. Support of work on endangered mi- 
gratory species of waterbirds, eg. Baikal 
Teal Anas formosa. 

How individuals/organizations can help 
in the flyway network: 

1. Inform others about your present and 
future activities. 

2. Suggest potentially important sites 
which need further surveys. Help or- 
ganize and support expeditions to these 
sites. 

3. Send to AWB regular counts of shore- 
birds at different sites taken during the 
migration and winter season in your 
area. 

4. Send in reports, articles and papers 
about shorebirds. 

5. Provide banding (ringing) reports and 
totals of shorebirds banded, and if re- 
quired send in recoveries to be followed 
up. 

6. Provide information about threats to 
shorebirds and their habitats in your 
area. 

7. Promote conservation of key sites and 
species. 



8. Provide information to other network 
members. 

Please address all information and en- 
quiries to Taej Mundkur (Waterbird and 
Flyway Projects Officer) at AWB head- 
quarters. 



Japan Withdraws Funding 
from the Narmada 

According to areportin World Rivers Review 
(Vol.5 No.5, Sept./Oct.l989) the Japanese 
Government has withdrawn bilateral 
co-financing for the World Banks Sardar 
Sarovar project in India. This is the result of a 
decision that Japan's Overseas Economic 
Cooperation Fund (OECF) will not provide 
funding in the coming year of the project 

The Sardar Sarovar project (SSP) in India's 
Narmada river which is intended to provide 
drinking and irrigation water to the 
drought-prone West-Central Indian State of 
Gujarat has been called "India's greatest 
planned environmental disaster". The massive 
dam project is the first phase of the Narmada 
valley development project, involving the 
eventual construction of 3,000 various scaled 
dams and the uprooting of over 1 million people. 
100,000 people will be displaced by SSP, and 
their fertile farmlands and forests submerged. 

Japan's environmental performance has been 
oft-criticized for many years, drifmemng and 
tropical timber consumption being two areas 
which have received particular attention. More 
recently NGOs have criticized severely the 
environmental policies of Japan's ODA. This 
step by Japan to withdraw funding from a major 
dam project on environmental and social 
grounds is therefore a very encouraging siep and 
bodes particularly well for the future rc'e that 
Japan might play in reducing nse of 
development assistance for projects which 
adversely effect wedand systems. It is hoped 
that Japan will increase its involvement in 
wetland conservation in the developing wodd 
and in particular in Asia. One of the major 
mechanisms through which this could be 
achieved would be by channelling development 
assistance to conservation projects rather than to 
those which destroy wetlands. 

Source: World Rivers Review (SepllOcl 1989) 

Cover :Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus 
jocosus). A familiar bird with a pointed black 
crest, frequenting gardens and open scrub 
jungle. Its call is a variety of cheery musical 
notes. Both parents share in nest construction', a 
fairly neat cup, incubation of eggs and rearing 
of chicks. 

Photo : S. Sridhar. ARPS 



Editor : ZAFARFUTHEHALLY, Moitaka', 
Bear Shola Road, Kodaikanal 624 101 
Printed and published by S. Sridhar at 
Navbharath Enterprises, Seshadripuram, 
Bangalore 560 020, for Private Circulation only 



Vol. XXXI 



No.ll & 12 November-December 1991 



. 



CONTENTS 
Editorial 

• The BNHS Bird Migration Project Annual Report 
1989-90 

• Coastal Marine Ecosystems in the Gulf of Kutch 

• The Blaek Tern Chlidonias niger 
Extracts 

• Magpie robin: Slow Progress 

• Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Arabia 

• Hawk Study questions minimum viable population 
hypothesis 

• Yellow-eyed Penguin Plummets 
Articles 

• Checklist of Birds in Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, 
Orissa, by Dr. Sudhakar Kar 

• Some Observations on the Water-Bird populations of 
the Vedanthagal Bird Sanctuary, by V. Santharam 
and R.K.G. Menon 

Correspondence 

• On Birds Frequenting Water Puddles, by S. 
Karthikeyan 

• Two New Eagles in Assam, by Anwaruddin 
Choudhury 

• Notes from Kutch on Eastern Golden Plover, Golden 
Plover, Dalmatian Pelican, Greylag Geese and 
Broadbilled Sandpiper, by S. Asad Akhtar and J.K. 
Tiwari 

• An Unusual Congregation of Slenderbilled Gulls, by 
S.A. Hussain, S. Asad Akhtar and J.K. Tiwari 

• Assam: The Main Breeding Ground of Spotbilled 
Pelican, by Ranjan Kumar Das 

• Bathing Behaviour of some Garden Birds, by S. 
Devasahayam and Anita Devasahayam 

• Stray Birds on the Indian Institute of Science Campus, 
Bangalore, by RJ. Ranjit Daniels 

• Our Native Woodcock, by Thomas F. Martin 

• Great Hornbill Study commences in South India, by 
R. Kannan 

• Albino Common Kingfisher, by Mohit Aggarwal 

• Visit of Bird Enthusiasts to Dholka, Ahmedabad, by 
Dilhasjaffri 

• A Huge Flock of Swallows, Swifts and Martins in 
Yamuna Nagar, Haryana, by Rajiv Singh Kalsi 

• Waterfowl Census — Advice required, by Dr. V.K. 
Shukla 

• On the Famed Bulbul of Persian Poetry, by Dr. J.C. 
Uttangi 



EDITORIAL 

The BNHS Bird Migration Project Annual Report 1989-90 

This project is obviously the most important one from 
the point of view of collecting data on both the resident as 
well as the migrant birds of India. 11,928 birds were ringed 
from October 1989 - September 1990, The netting and 
ringing was done at Point Calimere, Pulicat Lake, 
Sriharikota, Chilka Lake, Kutch, Hingolgodh, Rajkot and 
Tirupati. The largest number of land birds ringed was in 
Srharikota, and the largest number of aquatic birds was 
ringed in Point Calimere. Among the notable sightings 
during the camps were a Jerdon's Courser in Cuddapa, 
Andhra Pradesh, and a Black Tern (presumably in Point 
Calimere). 

It is worth noting that one of the best protected areas in 
India is Sriharikota Island which now virtually belongs to 
the Indian Space Research Organisation. The Tropical Dry 
Evergreen Forest here is richer than anywhere else. Other 
Defence establishments in India with vast areas under their 
command could emulate ISRO's conservation approach. 
As many as 146 birds caught during the netting operations 
were recaptured. When a ringed bird is recaptured it 
provides an exceptional opportunity for understanding 
various aspects of avian biology. For example, a Lesser 
Sandplover ringed in Novembr 1971 at Point Calimere 
"was retrapped after a gap of 19 years in January 1990, 
which was the longest longevity priod among the small 
waders. Since the bird was ringed as an adult (more than 

one year) the minimum age for the bird may be 20 

years". 

One thing which disturbed me was the attempt to ring 
raptors in the Chhari-Dhand area of Kutch. "The technique 
basically consists of a rodent bait placed on the ground 
between strategically located twigs, to which an organic 
glue has been applied. As the raptor flies to grab the bait, 
the glue sticks to its flight feathers throwing it off balance." 
Apparently Marsh Harriers, Pale Harriers and a Steppe 
Eagle were caught by this method. I hope the birds were 
not damaged in any way, and presumably BNHS scientists 
can be trusted to ensure that no damage was done. 

These camps of the BNHS, several located in the same 
areas year after year, provide a wonderful opportunity for 
monitorng the state of the habitat, apart from the birds. 
When the bird ringing project was started in the 1960s, I 
recall going to the 'BANNI' north of the Kutch mainland. 
It was a magnificent grassland, most attractive with the 
capparis bushes and their pink flowers. Apparently there 
has not been a big change. The Report says "since the last 
twenty five years substantial portions of this pastureland 
has been gradually invaded by the exotic weed Prosopis 
juliflora". Various other measures too have affected the 
productivity of this grassland. 



Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



Coastal Marine Ecosystem in the Gulf of Kutch 

The final report, 1991, of the WWF-India sponsored 
Research Project under the leadership of Prof. R.M. Naik of 
Saurashtra University appears to be a very worthwhile 
thorough investigation into the anthropogenic pressures 
on this area. Of particular interest to us is.the Chapter on 
Coastal and Island Birds, and the special attention given to 
the nesting of the Little Tern Sterna albifrons "to illustrate 
how a ground nesting water bird adjusts to a man-made 
habitat." 

During this 5 year study from 1984 to 1989, a total of 80 
species of birds were recorded in the Islands and the coast, 
and surprisingly, a greater number, 86 from the salt works. 
Also somewhat inexplicable is the fact that though Great 
Reed Warblers were present in the mangrove swamps, and 
their "territorial behaviour was evident", no nests were 
located. I recall hearing the loud and jolly calls of these birds 
emanating from the mangroves of Mahim Creek in 
Bombay, and around Revas across the Bombay harbour. 

This report is well worth reading for the well researched 
insight it provides into the ecoloical problems of a 
fascinating natural area. 

There are certain special features of the salt pans which 
are advantageous to nesting birds, so it is cheering to be 
told that all man made structures are not unfavourable to 
birds, as compared to the natural environment. 

The Black Tern Chlidonias niger 

Ketan Tatu, 4/21 Azad Apts., Ambawadi, Ahmedabad 
380 015, seems to have identified a few specimens of this 
species in Vastrapur village in Ahmedabad. There are 19 
species of terns in India, many of them confusingly similar, 
but by careful observation over several hours between 30th 
August and 4th September 1991, and by consulting all the 
major references he seems to be pretty sure of this 
identification. The Black Tern has apparently only been 
recorded once before from Delhi, and in Point Calimere. 

Tatu first saw two terns smaller than a Ring Dove flying 
over the marsh adjoining the 7 hectare pond. He found no 
noticeable fork in the tail, belly white, and "dull brown 
blotches ... on the greyish upper surface of the wings." 
These markings seem to indicate definitely that the birds 
were Black Terns. On the evening of 31st August "a unique 
behaviour was observed. One of these terns started to 
throw itself violently from the air into the pond ... 
sometimes even disappearing below the ... surface for (a) 
few moments". Apart from these Black Terns, Tatu 
identified two Whiskered Terns Childonias hybridus in 
breeding plumage. 

The new dictionary of Birds by Sri Landsborough 
Thompson says: "The group of marsh terns includes the 
Black Tern, Sterna (Chlidonias) nigra darker than any of the 
(others). It has a Holarctic range in middle temperate 
latitudes and breeds in small colonies on fresh water 



marshes, swampy grasslands and reed fringed shores of 
lakes and slowly flowing rivers". Since this kind of habitat 
is available in India, perhaps we will see more of the Black 
Tern. 

EXTRACTS 

Magpie Robin: slow progress 

For the last decade the population of magpie robin 
Copsychus sechellarum has oscillated between 20 and 26 
birds despite a successful cat eradication programme on 
Fregate, the most easterly of the Seychelles, in 1981/82. 
Since 1960 this island, which has never been colonized by 
rats has been the only home of the bird. Factors preventing 
its recovery were identified in 1988: reduction in feeding 
quality, decline of suitable nesting trees and increase in nest 
disturbance, and in 1990 a recovery plan was launched. 
Initial efforts are concentrating on increasing the 
availability of food in the short term - providing 
supplementary feeding (cockroaches) and increasing 
access to food by diging over fertile soil or splitting rotten 
trunks - and in the long tern, by restoring indigenous forest. 

Source: : World Birdwatch, March 1991, 10-11. 

Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Arabia 

This project, launched in 1984, has now collected reports 
from 200 observers as well as obtaining records from 
literature and museum sources. The National Commission 
for Wildlife Conservation and Development of Saudi 
Arabia is now sponsoring the Atlas financially and will 
publish it in due course. Meanwhile The Phoenix carries 
news of progress: the most recent issue covered species of 
interest, potential reserves and more. 

Source: Michael C Jennings, Co-ordinator of the Atlas 
and Editor of the Phoenix, 1 Warners Farm, 
Warners Drove, Somersham, Cambridgeshire 
PE173HW,UK. 

Hawk study questions minimum viable populaton 
hypothesis 

The red-tailed hawk Buteo jamaicensis socorroensis of 
Socorro, the largest of the four Revillagigedo Islands in the 
Mexican tropical Pacific, appears to have had a stable 
population of 15-20 pairs at least from 1953 to 1990 and 
possibly for longer. This calls into question the widely 
accepted concept of a minimum population size of 50 
reproducing pairs required for short term survival and 
maintenance of genetic variability; it certainly seems to 
invalidate the long term survival threshold number of 500 
breeding pairs. In 123 years since the discovery of the island 
populaton some 41 hawk generations have successfully 
maintained it. The bird's large size, its longevity and low 
predation rate may have provided buffers against 
extinction; inbreeding must occur but has had no 
fitness-reducing effects so far. This small viable population 



Sexsletter for Birdwatchers 



deserves serious attention from genetic, demographic, 
behavioural and ecological viewpoints. 

Source : Conservation Biology, 4 (4), 441-443. 
Yellow-eyed penguin plummets 

Despite tremendous efforts by conservationists, 
numbers of yellow-eyed penguins Megadyp'tes antipodes on 
mainland New Zealand continue to plummet. The latest 
census shows that only 167 breeding pairs are left on South 



Island - a 50% drop from the year before and the lowest ever 
recorded. The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, boosted by an 
annual grant of $ 65,000 from a dairy company (Mainland 
Products), is carrying out fencing and replanting work, 
trapping predators and running an education programme 
to alert people to the hazards of dogs attcking penguins and 
the dumping of unwanted cats. 

Source: Forest and Bird, February 1991, 4. 



CHECKLIST OF BIRDS IN THE BHITARKANIKA 
WILDLIFE SANCTUARY, ORISSA 



Dr. SUDHAKARKAR 
Research Officer, C/o Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Orissa, 315-Kharavelangar, Bhubaneswar751 001 



Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary (notified on 2nd April 
1975), is one of the two last strongholds of mangrove forest 
(the other is Sundarban in West Bengal) in India. It is 
located in the deltaic region of the Baitarani-Brahmani 
river, mostly comprising the ex- Zamindary forests of 
Kanika in Cuttack District of Orissa (Fig.l). This is an ideal 
Sanctuary and it is unique as far as its flora and fauna are 
concerned. 

Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary provides an ideal 
habitat not only to a variety of reptiles (such as the 
endangered Saltwater crocodiles, Pacific Ridley Sea turtles, 
Water monitor lizards, King Cobra and Pythons, etc.) and 
mammals (spotted deer, hyaeras and fishing cats but also 
to a variety of common and rare birds including a number 
of migratory birds. The avifauna of this mangrove 
ecosystem includes a host of raptors such as Whitebellied 
sea eagles and Brahminy kites, and a number of colourful 
resident birds. Open billed storks, white ibis, egrets, 
herons, little cormorants and darters build their nests on 
trees like Avicennia, Exoecaria and other mangrove plants 
during mid June to end of October, every year. It has been 

Checklist of Birds 



estimated that more than 80,000 birds nest together and the 
place is locally known as 'Bagagahan' (Neronry). There are 
seven species of kingfishers including the rare white 
collared Halcyon chloris and Brownwinged storkbilled 
kingfishers Pelargopsis amauroptera. 

In addition, a good population (more than 700) of 
Barheaded- geese Anser indicus were seen feeding and 
roosting along with Brahminy ducks, inside the Sanctuary 
during the winter months. 

During my study on Saltwater crocodiles and its habitat 
in Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary over a decade and half 
attempts were made to identify the bird species and to 
record their food habits and associated behaviour 
including the breeding biology of some rare birds species. 
A total of 171 species of birds were identified and the 
checklist is as follows. 

Acknowledgements 

I wish to express my thanks to the Orissa Forest 
Department, the Government of India, FAO & UNDP for 
support. 



1 


Spotbilled pelican 


Pelecanus philippensis 


11 


Cattle egret 


Bubulcus ibis 


2 


Little cormorant 


Phalacrocorax niger 


12 


Night heron 


Nycticorax nycticorax 


3 


Darter 


Anhinga rufa 


13 


Bittern 


Botaurus stellaris 


4 


Grey heron 


Ardea cinerea 


14 


Chestnut bittern 


Ixobrychus cinnamomeus 


b 


Purple heron 


Areda purpurea 


15 


Lesser adjutant 


Leptoptibs javanicus 


b 


Pond heron 


Ardeola grayii 


16 


Painted stork 


Mycteria leucocephala 


; 


Little egret 


Egretta garzetta 


17 


Whitenecked stork 


Ckonia episcopus 


8 


Median egret 


Egretta intermedia 


18 


Open billed stork 


Anastomus oscitans 


9 


Large egret 


Egretta alba 


19 


Blacknecked stork 


Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus 


10 


Little green heron 


Butorides striatus 


20 


White ibis 


Threskiornis melanocephala 



Newsletter for Birdwatchers 




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THE BHITARKANIKA WILDLIFE SANCTUARY, ORISSA 



Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



21 Spoonbill 

22 Lesser flamingo 

23 Barheaded goose 

24 Lesser whistling teal 

25 Ruddy shelduck 

26 Garganeyteal 

27 Gadwall 

28 Paintail 

29 Blackwinged kite 

30 Crested honey Buzard 

31 Pariah kite 

32 Brahminy kite 

33 Shikra 

34 Indian whitebacked vulture 

35 Scavenger vulture 

36 Short-toed eagle 

37 Whitebellied sea eagle 

38 Booted Hawk eagle 

39 Pallas' fishing eagle 

40 Marsh harrier 

41 Hen harrier 

42 Pied harrier 

43 Crested serpent eagle 

44 Osprey 

45 Kestrel 

46 Red jungle fowl 

47 Whitebreasted waterhen 

48 Bronzewinged jacana 

49 Blackwinged stilt 

50 Redwattled lapwing 

51 Black bellied plover 

52 Golden plover 

53 Large sand plover 

54 Little ringed plover 

55 Kentish plover 

56 Lesser sand plover 

57 Fantail snipe 

58 Curlew 

59 Terek sandpiper 

60 Wood sandpiper 

61 Little grebe 

62 Greenshank 

63 Redshank 

64 Green sandpiper 

65 Little stint 

66 Temminck's stint 

67 Marsh sandpiper 

68 Dunlin 

69 Curlew sandpiper 

70 Common sandpiper 

71 Crab plover 

72 Whimbrel 



Platalea leucorodia 
Phoenicopterus roseus 
Anser indicus 
Dendrocygna javanica 
Tadornaferruginea 
Anas querquedula 
Andsstrepera 
Anas acuta 
Elanus caeruleus 
Pernis ptilorhyncus 
Milvus migrans 
Haliastur Indus 
AccipUerbadius 
Gyps bengalensis 
Neophron percnopterus 
Circaetus gallicus 
Haliaeetus leucogaster 
Hieraaetus pennatus 
Haliaeetus leucoryphus 
Circus aeruginosus 
Circus cyaneus 
Circus melanoleucos 
Spilornis cheela 
Pandion haliaetus 
Falco tinnunculus 
Gallus gallus 
Amaurornis phoenicurus 
Metopidius indicus 
Himantopus himantopus 
Vanellus indicus 
Pluvialis squatarola 
Pluvialis dominica 
Charadrius leschenaultii 
Charadrius dubius 
Charadrius alexandrinus 
Charadrius mongolus 
Capella gallinago 
Numenius arquala 
Tringa terek 
Tringa glareola 
Podiceps ruficollis 
Tringa nebularia 
Tringa totanus 
Tringa ochropus 
Calidris minutus 
Calidris temminckii 
Tringa stagnatilis 
Calidris alpina 
Calidris teslacea 
Tringa hypoleucos 
Dromas ardeola 
Numenius phaeopus 



73 Brownheaded gull 

74 Blackheaded gull 

75 Gullbilled tern 

76 Whiskered tern 

77 Indian river tern 

78 Little tern 

79 Indian skimmer 

80 Spotted dove 

81 Little brown dove 

82 Indian ring dove 

83 Emerald dove 

84 Blue rock pigeon 

85 Large parakeet 

86 Roseringed parakeet 

87 Blossomheaded parakeet 

88 Koel 

89 Large green-billed malkoha 

90 Crow pheasant 

91 Spotted owlet 

92 Jungle nightjar 

93 Common Indian nightjar 

94 Palm swift 

95 Lesser pied kingfisher 

96 Storkbilled kingfisher 

97 Blackcapped kingfisher 

98 Whitebreasted kingfisher 

99 Common kingfisher 

100 White collared kingfisher 

101 Brown winged storkbilled 

kingfisher 

102 G reen bee eater 

1 03 Bluetailed bee eater 

104 Chestnut headed bee eater 

105 Indian roller 

106 Hoopoe 

107 Green barbet 

108 Crimsonbreasted barbet 

1 09 Common grey hornbill 

110 Fulvous-breasted pied 

woodpecker 

111 Blacknaped green 

woodpecker 

112 Large gold enbacked 

woodpecker 

113 Yellowfronted pied 

woodpecker 

114 Indian Pitta 

115 Bush lark 

116 Eastern Skylark 

117 Ashycrowned flinch lark 

118 Swallow 

119. Redrumped swallow 

120 Rufousbacked shrike 

121 Grey shrike 



Larus brunnicephalus 
Larus ridibundus 
Gelochelidon nilotica 
Chlidonias hybrida 
Sterna aurantia 
Sterna albifrons 
Rynchops albicollis 
Streptopelia chinensis 
Streptopelia senegalensis 
Streptopelia decaocto 
Chalcophaps indica 
Columba livia 
Psittacula eupatria 
Psittacula krameri 
Psittacula cyanocephala 
Eudynamys scolopacea 
Rhopodytes tristis 
Centropus sinensis 
Athene brama 
Caprimulgus indicus 
Caprimulgus asiaticus 
Cypsiurus parvus 
Ceryle rudis 
Pelargopsis capensis 
Halcyon pileata 
Halcyon smyrnensis 
Alcedo atthis 
Halcyon chlors 
Pelargopsis amaurioptera 

Merops orientalis 
Merops philippinus 
Merops leschenaulti 
Caracias benghalensis 
Upupa epops 
Megalaima zelylanica 
Megalaima haemacephala 
Tockus birostris 
Picoides macei 

Picus canus 

Chrysocolaptes leucopterus 

Picoides mahrattensis 

Pitta brachyura 
Mirafra assamica 
Alauda gulgula 
Eremopterix grisea 
Hirundo rustica 
Hirundo daurica 
Lanius schach 
Lanius excubitor 



Newsletter for Bird watchers 



122 Golden oriole 

123 Blackheaded oriole 

124 Black drongo 

125 Haircrested drongo 

126 Piedmyna 

127 Greyheaded myna 

128 Jungle myna 

129 Common myna 

130 Jungle crow 

131 House crow 

132 Indian treepie 

133 Blackheaded cuckoo shrike 

134 Smaller grey cuckoo shrike 

135 Scarlet minivet 

136 Common lora 

137 Blackheaded bulbul 

138 Redwhiskered bulbul 

139 Redven ted bulbul 

140 Yelloweyed babbler 

141 Common babbler 

142 Redcapped babbler 

143 Redbreasted flycatcher 

144 Verditer flycatcher 

145 Paradise flycatcher 

146 Blaknaped monarch flycatcher 



Oriolus oriolus 
Oriolus xanthornus 
Dicmrus adsimilis 
Dicrurus hottentottus 
Sturnus contra 
Sturnus malabaricus 
Acridotheres fuscus 
Acridotheres tristis 
Corvus macrorhynchos 
Corvus splendens 
Dendrocitla vagabunda 
Coracina melanoptera 
Coracina melaschistos 
Pericrocotus flammeus 
Aegithina tiphia 
Pycnonolus atriceps 
Pycnonotus jocosus 
Pycnonotus cafer 
Chrysomma sinensis 
Turdoides caudatus 
Timalia pileata 
Mucicapa parva 
Muricapa thalassina 
Terpsiphone paradisi 
Monarcha azurea 



147 White throated fantail flycatchcrRfopidura aureola 



148 


Blyth's reed warbler 


Acrocephalus dumetorum 


149 


Tailor bird 


Orthotomus sutorius 


150 


Thick-billed warbler 


Pkragamaticola aedon 


151 


Great reed warbler 


Acrocephalus stentoreus 


152 


Bluet hroat 


Erithacus svecicus 


153 


Magpie robin 


Copsychus saularis 


154 


Orangheaded groundthrush 


Zoothera citrina 


155 


Tickell's thrush 


Turdus unicolor 


156 


Indian tree pipit 


Anthus hodgsoni 


157 


Paddyfield pipit 


Anthus novaeseelandiae 


158 


Yellow wagtail 


Motacillaflava 


159 


Yellowheaded wagtail 


Molacilla citreola 


160 


Purplerumped sunbird 


Nectarinia zeylonica 


161 


Loten'ssunbird 


Nectarinia lotenia 


162 


Purple sunbird 


Nectarinia asiatica 


163 


White-eye 


Zosterops palpebrosa 


164 


House sparrow 


Passer domesticus 


165 


Tree sparrow 


Passer montanus 


166 


Baya 


Ploceus philippinus 


167 


White throated munia 


Lonchura malabarica 


168 


Red munia 


Estrilda amandava 


169 


Black headed munia 


Lonchura malacca 


170 


Common rosefinch 


Carpodacus erythrinus 



SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE WATER-BIRD POPULATIONS 
OF THE VEDANTHANGAL BIRD SANCTUARY 



V. SANTHARAM and R.K.C. MENON, 68, 1 Floor, Santhome High Road, Madras 600 028 



Introduction 

Although the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary has been in 
existence officially since 1936, very few scientific studies 
have been conducted here. There are few recordsof the bird 
populations of this heronry which is in existence for over 
200 years now, protected by the local villagers. The only 
record of bird numbers of this heronry is that of Krishnan 
(1961) who estimated 6000 birds in a good year including 
young and non-breeding birds. Spillett (1968) also quotes 
a similar figure. 

The need for regular monitoring of birds of this heronry 
was felt by the second author (RKGM) in 1981. Regular 
(fortnightly) counts were made for the 1981-82 season. 
Later, in 1985-86, a count was made by him on 1st March, 
1986. Regular counts thereafter were not possible because 
of the recurring droughts in this area. In January 1991, 
members of Madras Naturalists' Society (MNS), undertook 
a bird count in the sanctuary as a part of the annual Asian 
Waterfowl Count. A count of birds was also made by VS in 
February 1991 for the purpose of this paper. These data 
gave us an opportunity to compare waterbird populations 
of the sanctuary over a decade. 



We realize the limitations of these restricted pieces of 
information and hence only cautious conclusions are 
drawn. The main aim of this paper is to give a broad trend 
of the populations of waterbirds at Vedanthangal over the 
last decade. We hope this will motivate some one to do a 
more thorough study of the sanctuary and its birds. 

Study site 

Vedanthangal is situated about 80 kms. to the south of 
Madras and is 120m. above the sea level. It is about 50 kms 
inland from the sea and receuves 1140 mm. of rainfall per 
year from the northeast monsoon between October and 
December. The months April - June are the hottest with 
temperatures shooting up to 38 "C. 

The Vedanthangal tank encompasses an area of 30 
hectares. A long bund along the western side impounds the 
water. The tank is bordered by agricultural lands and the 
countryside around Vedanthangal is mainly flat, with a 
few low-ridged denuded hillocks. Apart from the huge 
Madurantakam tank, there are about 60-70 smaller tanks 
around the sanctuary area. These are filled during the 
northeast monsoon but remain dry during the summer 
months. Four small canals feed the Vedanthangal tank, 
which has a maximum depth of 5m. along the bund. 



Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



TABLE -1 
A List of Breeding Waterbirds of Vedanthangal 

Spottedbilled or Grey Pelican Pelecanus philippettsis 



Large Cormorant 

Indian Shag 

Little Cormorant 

Darter 

Grey Heron 

Large Egret 

Smaller (Median) Egret 

Little Egret 

Night Heron 

Openbilled Stork 

White Ibis 

Spoonbill 



Phalacrocorax carbo 
P.fuscicollis 
P. niger 
Anhinga rufa 
Ardea cinerea 
A. alba 

Egretta intermedia 
E. garzeita 

Nycticorax nycticorax 
Anastomus oscitans 
Threskiornis aethiopica 
Platalea leucordia 
Apart from the tank at Vedanthangal, birds are known 
to nest in two adjacent tanks at Karikili, which is some 7-8 
kms. from Vedanthangal. The thirteen species of 
waterbirds which nest in these tanks (Table-1), use the 
Barringtonia acutangula trees that grow in these tank beds. 
These trees are submerged when the tank fills up, leaving 
only the top branches exposed. Originally, about 12 
hectares of the tank was occupied by the 550 or so 
Barringtonia trees (Krishnan 1961). In 1946, the Forest 
Department planted about 1000 Barringtnia seeds. But 
regeneration was unsuccessful. Further attempts were 
made with Acacia nilotica and the 1978-80 plantings were 
successful. Today, there is a good stand of Acacia at the 
tank. It is estimated (Paulraj, 1984) that there are 5000 Acacia 
and almost 1000 Barringtonia trees at Vedanthangal. With 
the tank at its full capacity, only about 1 00 Barringtonia trees 
are above submergence level. 

Methods and Materials 

The methods used in the different years were essentially 
the same. The watch tower atop the bund was the main 
censusing station. In 1981-82 and 1986, a pair of 14x40 
binoculars mounted on a stand was used by RKGM while 
in 1991, VS used a 16-45 x 60 telescope. 

Day counts were conducted during the afternoon when 
light was favourable. Counts were made by slowly 
panning the binoculars/telescope from one end of the 
colony to the other. Both adult and young birds were 
counted. The count of birds returning to roost in the late 
evening was done using the block method (Howes and 
Bakewell,1989). 

For convenience, we grouped the nesting birds based 
on their similarity in appearance, into 6 major classes 
(Table-2). The little cormorants, shags and large 
cormorants were grouped as 'Egrets'. This facilitated rapid 
counting, especially in the late evenings when light was 
low to distinguish between the different species. Other 
species present had to be left out for reasons such as cryptic 
colouration (Pond Heron, waders) and concealment 
amongst foliage (Night Herons, ducks, rails, Dabchick) 















7 








TABLE-2 










Results of Counts 








(a) Day Count 












Date 


COR 


GHE 


GR OB 


IB 


SB 


TOTAL 


13Jan.-82 


790 


243 


59 


88 


25 


1205 


13Jan.91 


563 


347 


117 256 


61 


79 


1423 


17Feb.82 


1000 


297 


140 


125 


30 


1592 


12Feb.91 


800 


200 


100 250 


30 


120 


1500 


5 Mar.82 


1336 


191 


124 


no 


?8 


1789 


1 Mar. 86 


1571 


260 


68 598 


270 


88 


2855 


(b) Roost Count 












13 Jan. 82 






No count taken 








13 Jan. 91 


1271 


18 


2087 21 


164 


11 


3572 


17 Feb. 82 


682 


8 


2213 9 


143 


1 


3056 


12 Feb. 91 






No count taken 








5 Mar. 82 


1495 


5 


1425 2 


309 


1 


3237 


1 Mar. 86 


1038 


14 


339* 6 


212 


? 


1611 


(* Partial count) 













Results 

Table 2 gives the results of the three counts made in 1 986 
and 1991 with comparable dates in 1981-82. This includes 
day counts and roost (evening) counts (wherever figures 
are available). 

Table 3 shows the maximum numbers we counted of 
the various species in the three seasons. The figure for 
egrets for 1986 is partial as a complete roost count of egrets 
was not taken. About 2000 egrets (mainly cattle egrets) 
have been counted roosting in Vedanthangal in 1981-82 
and 1990-91. 

Looking at the figures for the three years as seen in Table 
2, it is seen that there are variations on comparable dates in 
different years. But a look at the maximums recorded for 
various species in the 3 years (Table 3), show that numbers 
for the three years are more or less the same (+ 20%) 
excepting open bills and Spoonbills in 1985-86 and 
cormorants, Ibis and Spoonbills in 1990-91. The overall 
difference in total number of birds present between 1981-82 
and 1991 is only 10%. 



Table 3 
Maximum recorded numbers in the three seasons 



Season 



COR 



GW EGR OB IB 



SB 



2456 3 

407 b 

2204 5 



330 3 
604 

277 s 



419 4 
482 



38 1 

90 

120 6 



1981-82 2831 4 305 2 

1985-86a 2609 274 

1990-91 1834 s 365 s 2204' 277 s 225 5 

% increase/ 

decrease in 

1985-86 over -7.8% -10.2% - 

1981-82 

% increase/ 

decrease in 

1990-91 over -35.2% +19.7%-10.3% -16.1% -46.3% +215. 

1981-82 

(Dates of counts 



All 

Species 

5599* 

4466 b 

4995 5 



+83% +15% +136.8% - 



-10% 



1)5 Feb. 82 2) 17 Feb. 82 
4) 5 Mar. 82 5) 13 Jan. 91 
a - Counted on 13 Mar. 86 
b - Roosting Egrets only partly counted). 
[COR -Cormorants OB - Openbill Stork 

GH - Grey Heron IB - White Ibis 

EGR - Egrets SB - Spoonbill 1 



3) 26 Feb. 82 
6) 12 Feb. 91 



Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



Discussion 

Assuming the majority of the birds present and 
included in the day counts are nesting, the variation in the 
numbers seen in Table 2 (comparable dates in different 
years) appears to be a result of changes in the nesting 
phenology. Nesting is triggered by the availability of water 
in the tank and nearby areas, which is used by the birds as 
a cue to availability of food and security against predators. 
Annual variations in the monsoon pattern could affect the 
onset of breeding activities and in years when rainfall is 
scanty, birds skip breeding, altogether. 

Other reasons for variation in species numbers between 
the years include availability of suitable nest sites, 
competition for nest sites, dispersal patterns of the young 
and differential rates of fledgeling survival. Changes in the 
overall ecological conditions in the nesting and foraging 
sites could also account for this variation. Extrinsic factors 
such as disturbances and droughts in other areas may 
cause fluctuations in species composition : We have noticed 
Grey pelicans, which are not regular nesters at the heronry, 
nesting in fairly good numbers in certain years; in 1986 
there was a sudden influx of over 100 Painted storks and 
about six pairs nested. These birds have never been 
reported nesting at Vedanthangal, earlier. 

The comparable bird count figures of 1981-82, 1985-86 
and 1990-91 seasons, seem to indicate that Vedanthangal 
can support a maximum of about 5-6000 water-birds, the 
figure estimated by Krishnan and Spillett. The planting of 
additional trees do not seem to have increased the bird 
populations. The newly planted Acacia trees are used as 
nest-sites occasionally and a few species of birds have been 
noticed using Acacia twigs for nesting material. 

Our roost counts indicate that in the case of egrets, white 
Ibis and Cormorants, there has been a consistent trend in 
these three seasons towards more of these birds coming in 
to roost than other species (Table 2). These roosting birds 
account for 64-71% of the total birds counted. These, we 
presume, are non-breeding individuals, which include 
juvenile birds of the first brood. (We have noticed in the 
case of cormorants, young ones in nests as early as third 
week of November). Krishnan (1961) hasalso noted that all 
birds present at Vedanthangal may not be breeding at any 
given time. 

Observations over the last decade show that Pond 
Herons and Cattle Egrets which have been known to breed 
here in earlier years (Krishnan, 1 961 ) are no longer breedi ng 
(or may breed in negligible numbers) and use 
Vedanthangal mainly as a roost. Observation here and 
elsewhere (Santharam, 1987; 1988; and 1989) indicate Cattle 
Egrets and pond Herons are mainly winter visitors to the 
region, their movements regulated by the two monsoons. 
Similarly, Little Egrets, earlier reported to be among the 
most numerous nesting birds (Krishnan, 1961; Spillett, 
1968) at Vedanthangal appear to be declining. Our counts 



show consistently that only about 100 egrets are present in 
the tank during the day. 

Recent changes in the land use and crop growing 
patterns in the neighbourhood of Vedanthangal are 
noteworthy. Several fields adjacent to the tank have been 
left fallow. In others, wet crops (Paddy, sugarcane), grown 
in earlier years have given way to dry crops such as ground 
nut as a result of recurring droughts. This may restrict the 
foraging habitat available for shallow feeders such as 
egrets, White Ibis etc. Cormorants who are divers and feed 
in deeper areas are also likely to be affected by the lower 
water storage in the nearly lakes, aggravated by 
indiscriminate agricultural use of electric pumps. 

As has been pointed ouc by Krishnan (1961; 1978) and 
Spillet (1968), birds of Vedanthangal greatly depend on the 
nearby areas - wetlands, paddyfields and scrub-jungles. 
Mere protection conferred at the nesting site cannot ensure 
conservation of the heronry. We feel that a thorough, 
scientific study of the bird populations, their composition 
and relationship to the habitat conditions prevailing at and 
in the neighbourhood of Vedanthangal has to be 
undertaken to understand and manage this important 
heronry. 

References 

Howes, John and David Bakewcll (1989). Shore bird studies manual. 

AWB Publication No.55, Kuala Lumpur, 362 pp 
Krishnan', M. (1961) Vednathangal Waterbird Sanctuary, Tamilnadu 

Forest Dept. Publication. 29 pp. (in Tamil) 
Krishnan, M. (1978) The availability of nesting materials and nesting 

sites as vital factors in the gregarious breeding of Indian 

Waterbirds. JBNHS 75 : 1143-1 152. 
Paulraj, S. (1984). Studies on Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary Project 

Report Final Part 1 & 2. 
Santharam, V. (1987). The Pond Heron - its local movements 

Newsletter for Birdwatchers XXVII (9 & 10) : 4-6. 
Santharam, V. (1988). Further notes on the local movements of the 

Pond Heron. Ibid XXVIII (1 & 2) : 8-9. 
Santharam, V. (1989). More on the local movements of Cattle Egrets 

and Pond Herons. Ibid XXIX (1 & 2) : 8. 
Spillett,]J. (1968). A report of wildlife survey inSouthand West India, 

Nov-Dec. 1966 - Wildlife sanctuaries in Madras State. 1BNHS 65 : 

633-663. 

Acknowledgements 

We thank L. Kalavathi, M. Raghuraman, K.V. Sudhakar 
and S. Thyagarajan, who participated in the count at 
Vedanthangal on 13 January 1991'. 

CORRESPONDENCE 

ON BIRDS FREQUENTING WATER PUDDLES. 

S.KARTHIKEYAN, 24, Opp. Banashankari Temple, 8th Block, 
jayanagar P.O., Bangalore 560 082 and J.N. PRASAD, 13, 8th 
Cross, 30th Main, 1TI Layout, Sarakki, ).P. Nagar 1 Phase, 
Bangalore 560 082 

January 1991 was a hot month. The tanks in 
Bannerghatta National Park had very little water left in 
them. Between 17-19 January 1991, we were watching birds 
while surveying the area for the Yellowthroated Bulbul 
Pycnonotus xantholaemus 



Newsletter for Birdwa tchcrs 



On 1 7 January while walking through a fairly dry patch 
of forest in Bannerghatta, our attention was drawn to a 
racket created by calling bulbuls. Heading in the direction 
we saw Redvented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer, Redwhiskered 
Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus, Whitebrowed Bulbul Pycnonotus 
luteolus and yellowthroated Bulbuls Pycnonotus 
xantholaemus drinking and bathing from a small puddle 
of water from an otherwise dry streambed. 

We observed them for sometime and moved on. With 
the day approaching noon, we were in search of water to 
have our brunch. Now again we heard a cacophony of 
calling bulbuls. On reaching the spot we found a puddle of 
water which was being used by three species of bulbuls, the 
Yellowthroated species missing this time. The obvious 
question that came to our minds was - could water puddles 
be found using bulbuls. 

Our visit to the area on 18 January was uneventful but 
on 19 January when we put our speculations to test we had 
learnt to find a water source using the bulbuls. 

Birding in a different part of the National Park during 
the late morning hours we again heard bulbuls calling 
which promptly led us to the spot only to see a pool of 
water. Having decided to spend sometime watching birds 
at the puddle of water, we sat on a rock at some distance 
away so as not to disturb the birds. 

Redwhiskered and Redvented bulbuls were the most 
common birds at the water puddle and also the first ones 
to panic at the slightest movement. The Whitebrowed 
bulbuls were very cautious while approaching the water's 
edge, always using the cover offered by the vegetation so 
did the female Koel Eudynamys scolopacea. 

Close behind us we heard sounds that were 
characteristic of ground birds. On turning back cautiously 
we saw a pair of quails with four young ones walking 
cautiously in the direction of the water puddle. No sooner 
they noticed our presence as we were about to get a look 
through our binoculars, they scurried into the 
undergrowth with young ones following them promptly 
not giving us a chance to identify them. 

Continuing our watch, we were surprised at the variety 
of species that visited a waterbody. A Whitebrowed Fantail 
Flycatcher Rhipidura auerola alighted at the water's edge 
close to us, often fanning its tail and prancing. Then it got 
into water and spread water all over by dipping its head 
and flipping the wings. 

Spotted Munia Lonchura punctulata, Whitebacked 
Munia Lonchura striata and White-eye Zosterops palpebrosa 
also came to have a drink while some individuals also had 
a dip. A Blyth'sReed Warbler Acrocephalusdumetorum used 
the water sitting at the edge of it where there was good 
cover. 

The Little Brown Dove Streptopelia senegalensis also 
joined the party by making a brief visit to the water body. 
The female Blackbird Turdus merula was seen joining the 



bulbuls more often than the male for a drink. A 
White-throated Ground Thrush Zoothera citrina which had 
appeared on the scene promptly flew away due to 
disturbance as we prepared to leave. 

Though we knew that our expectations were too high, 
we were eager to witness the Paradise Flycatcher 
Terpsiphoneparadisi male in white plumage demonstrate its 
bathing technique. 

Later, we went to watch birds in the forest. On our way 
back we decided to spend some more time at the same pool. 
It was now that our expectation was fulfilled. A male 
Paradise Flycatcher in its white dress settled down on a thin 
branch overhanging the water. It wasted no time as it dived 
into the water five times, preening itself subsequently and 
disappearing later. 

In all fourteen species of birds were seen using the water 
puddle. Probably more species may have been recorded if 
not for the time constraint. 

TWO NEW EAGLES IN ASSAM. ANWARUDDIN 
CHOUDHURY, Addl Deputy Commissioner, Karbi 
Anglong, Diphu. For. con: Islampur Road, Guwahati 
781 007, Assam 

Recently in Dhakuakhana Sub-Division of Lakhimpur 
district I observed and phtographed two birds of prey, both 
seemed to be uncommon (Map 1). Later on I identified 
them as Bonelli's Hawk-Eagle Hieraeetus fasciatus and 
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus both new to Assam 
aswell as the whole of North-East India. 

Bonelli's Hawk-Eagle 

Also known as Bonelli's Eagle, this specis is known to 
occur upto West Bengal (Ali & Ripley, 1983). It is a medium 
to large eagle with grey to grey-brown above and paler 
below. Throat and breast streaked with black. Legs 
feathered. 

I first saw the bird on 15th march, 1991 in the light 
woodland near Basudeo than, c. 12 km from Dhakuakhana. 
Feathered legs, uncrested head, streaked throat and breast, 
and greyish upper parts made it obvious. A few minutes 
later one more appeared and tried to settle on a Dillenia 
indica tree overgrown with a 'jori' Ficus sp. But a rhesus 
monkey Macaca mulatto did not allow it to settle. On the tree 
I also noticed a nest at about 12-13 m height from the 
ground. The locals said that a pair is using the nest for the 
last several years. The nest was in the middle layer with 
dense foliage shielding it. Thereafter I again visited the spot 
on 19th March and saw one immature bird. 

Short-toed Eagle 

On 19th March, 1991 in the same area I saw another bird 
of prey. The local people call it Ookoh. Like the previous 
one, in this species also I found something new. So on 24th 
March I made another trip to the area and observed the bird 
thoroughly. It was slightly smaller than the commoner 
Pariah Kite Milvus migrans upperparts deep brown with 



10 



Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



,<£/&■ V5^ , h? r rv. 






Bonelli's 




fcfrora f,«n/; 



--* * BfuJuiMun? 



KEY 

Nesting uUs • 

Uoodlind K>i 

Road-mrt«"W = 



**( f- f«#c* ScWc 




*Z 



small buffy spots. Underparts brown with buff/whitish 
bars and streaks. Head grey and owl-like on frontal view. 
Unfeathered legs are whitish to grey with blak claws. Bill 
deep grey with black tip. Made a harsh keea, keea call, 
easily audible from a considerable distance. All these 
characteristics have been further corroborated by the 
photographs shot there. And this leaves no room for any 
doubt to identify it as a Short-toed Eagle, first record not 
only in Assam, but whole of North-East India. 

Unlike Bonelli's Eagle, its nest was on an open area. The 
tree is a deciduous species without foliage, locally called 
'urium' Bischofiajavanica. The nest was between the middle 
and canopy layers at c. 14-15 m height above ground. I next 
visited the area on 8 April, when the leaves started to 
appear. On all the visits only one bird seen. The locals 
confirmed that they are nesting since long back. Since it 
preys heavily on reptiles, especially snakes, the authorities 
of the Than keep watch so that nobody can harm the birds 
and their nest. Its occurrence in North-East India not 
reported anywhere (AH & Ripley 1983; Choudhury 1990). 

Discussion 

Basudeo Than is actually a temple with light woodland 
around (Map 2). Due to encroachment and felling, the 
jungle shrinked greatly and now covers only about four 
hectares of area with elephant grass and scattered trees and 
groves surrounded by cultivated countryside. Once known 
for its wild buffalo Bubalus bubalis, the area still has some 
python Python molurus and rheasus monkey. The discovery 
of these two species for the first time in North-East India 
and that too with permanent nesting sites the area naturally 
deserves special attention. So to preserve the area, I as the 
local Sub-Divisional Officer (civil) took up the matter with 
the than authorities, who on the other hand showed keen 



»<ri 



interest. And we decided to :- 

1. Fence off the area of about 50 bighas 
(about 7 hect) controlled by the Than 
through the Social Forestry Department. 
This will also prevent further 
encroachment and to some extent illegal 
felling. 

2. Put a signboard prohibiting felling of 
trees and killing of any animals and birds 
within the Than area. 

References 

Ali, S. & Ripley, S.D. (1983) : The Handbook of the 
Birds of India and Pakistan. Compact Edn., Oxford 
Univ. Press, Delhi. 

Choudhury, A.U. (1990) : Checklist of the Birds of 
Assam. Sofia Press & Publishers, Guwahati. 

NOTES FROM KUTCH. S. Asad 
Akhtar and J.K. Tiwari, Bird Migration 
Project, Bombay Natural History Society, 
Bombay 400023 



I. Eastern Golden Plover and Golden Plover from 
Chhari-Dhandh, Kutch, Gujarat 

1. Eastern Golden Plover, Pluvialis dominica 

On 26-01-90, the Society's Mir Shikars, brought in a 
bird, which on identification turned out to be an Eastern 
Golden Plover. Its biometrics were as follows. 

Wing = 174mm, Bill = 31 mm, Tarsus = 42.5mm, Tail = 
66mm, Wt = 103 gms. The bird was undergoing a head and 
body moult. It was ringed (Ring No.B-52306) and released 
immediately. 

According to the Birds of Kutch (Ali, 1945), this bird is 
not common in Kutch. A flock of 50-60 birds was observed 
once at Changdai jheel (Mandvi Taluka), in the second 
week of 1944 (Ali, op cit). Hence the above ringing record 
is the second for this bird in Kutch. 

2. Golden Plover, Pluvialis apricaria 

Again on 14-11-90 the Mir Shikars brought in a 
specimen of the Golden Plover which was ringed (Ring 
No.B-52128), and released immediately. Its biometrics 
were as follows: 

Wing = - , Bill = 28mm, Tarsus = 39 mm, Tail = -, Wt = 
75 gms. Its remigesand rectrices were undergoing a moult. 
This is the second record of this species from Kutch. Earlier 
two specimens of this were reported by Captain Butler 
(1875-6) from Kutch. Hence, the ringing record confirms 
the earlier (Butler, op cit) record after more than 116 years. 
The distribution of this species is not mentioned, either in 
the Birds of Kutch (1945), nor in the Handbook (1987). 

In the light of above ringing records, the occurrence of 
Eastern Golden Plover, and the Golden Plover in Kutch is 
now confirmed. 



Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



U 



References: 

Butler, Captain E. A. (1875-6): Notes on the avifauna of Mt. Aboo and 
Northern Gujarat. 2 parts. Stray Feathers Vol.3 & 4 pp 207- 235. 

Ali,S. (1945). The Birds of Kutch. Oxford University Press. 
Ali, S. and Ripley, S.D. (1987). Handbook of the Birds of India and 
Pakistan (Compact Edn.)pp 737. Oxford University Press. 

II. Dalmatian Pelican in Chhari-Dhand, Kutch, 
GUJARAT 

On 4.3.1990, at about 11.15 hrs, we were on a general 
reconnaissance of the Dhand and taking a count of 
Waterfowl. There were about 1500 Rosy Pelicans, Pelecanus 
onocrotalus in a compact flock in one portion of the Dhand. 
Three Pelicans sitting at a distance from this flock, attracted 
our attention and on closer scrutiny they turned out to be 
Dalmatian Pelicans, Pelecanus philippensis crispus. The 
crescentic tuft of feathers above the bill was quite distinct 
and as we approached them closer they took to their wings, 
when their grey legs (pinkish in Rosy Pelican) were clearly 
visible. The dusky white undersurface also stood out and 
confirmed our identification. 

Later nine more individuals were sighted in the Dhand 
during the reconnaissance. On 9.4.1990, three of these 
pelicans were observed again at about 11.30 hrs. They were 
observed in flight with the help of binoculars (8 X 30) as 
usual, and all the distinguishing features were clearly 
visible. During earlier reconnaissance we had used a 
Telescope (29x), which helped us in identifying this species 
more easily. Four individuals were seen again on 22.4.1990 
in the Dhand at 11.15 hrs at some distance from a flock of 
Rosy Pelicans. 

The Dalmatian Pelican, has been recorded once in Kutch 
in 1964 (Himatsinhji, Pers. Comm.). Hence the present 
sighting of the Dalmatian Pelican is the second sight record 
of this species in Kutch, after a gap of more than a quarter 
century. 

III. Sighting of the Greylag Geese in Chhari-dhandh, 
Kutch, GUJARAT 

On 25th November 1990, at .c.09.25 hrs, we were on a 
general reconnaissance of the Dhand (Jheel) hear Fulay 
village, taluk Nakatrana, Kutch. Our attention was drawn 
by a flock of six Common Cranes, Grus grus foraging in the 
dry area around the Dhandh. This particular flock had a 
ducklike bird in tow, which on closer scrutiny with 
binoculars turned out to be a Greylag goose Anser anser. The 
bird was extremely wary and followed the Cranes, which 
took off at the slightest suspicion, with the goose following 
them. It was seen over the next three or four days, in the 
company of the Cranes, foraging along with the flock. 

Interestingly, Chhari-Dhandh was a regular hunting 
ground of the Kutch Royal family and goose shoots were 
arranged annually till about the first decade of this century 
The last big shoot was arranged in the winter of 1912-13, 
after which the geese were not sighted. Climatic vagaries, 
scarcity of rains, sandstorms etc., seem to have disrupted 



the birdlife in and around the Dhandh (H.H. Vijayarajji, 
1912). The table below will give an indication of the 
numbers of geese frequenting the area, during the goose 
shooting days. 



Year 



Bag Size 



Jan 1910 


73 


Dec 1910 


83 


Nov 1912 


104 


Jan 1913 


104 



Shoot 

M.K.S. Vijayarajji 



Note: The largest individual bag on any single shoot, 
was 12 geese by M.K.S. Vijayarajji, Chhari, 
19.11.1910. 

Hence, the present sight record of a single Greylag 
goose after a gap of almost 77 years (Vijayarajji, op. cit) is 
worth noting. The climatic vagaries still continue; 
moreover the rampant and insidious march of the exotic 
weed Prosopis chilensis has destroyed the better part of the 
grassland which was the most prominent habitat here. 

Reference: 

Vijayarajji, M.K.S. (1912). Goose shooting in Kutch JBNHS Vol.21, pp 

678-679. 

IV. Broadbilled Sandpiper from Chhari-Dhandh, Kutch, 
GUJARAT 

On 26.4.1990 at c.21.00 hrs, during wader mistnetting in 
the Dhandh (Jheel) near Fulay village, a specimen of the 
Broadbilled Sandpiper, Limicola falcinellus, was trapped. 
The bird was ringed (Ring No.AB-72644) and released 
immediately. Its biometrics were as follows. 

Wing - 104 mm Bill = 37 mm Tarsus = 24.5 mm Tail = 39 
mm Wt = 38 gms 

The bird was undergoing a body moult. This is the 
second record of this species from Kutch, after the ringing 
in 1971, in Jakhau area, Abdasa taluka, District Kutch. 

References: 

A report of the ringing programme (1971) in the Jakhau area Abdasa 
taluka, Kachchn (unpublished report) BNIIS 

Ali, S. and Ripley, S.D. (1987). Handbook of the birds of India and 
Pakistan (Compact Edn) Oxford University Press. 

AN UNUSUAL CONGREGATION OF SLENDER 
BILLED GULLS AT NIR VANDH, KUTCH, 
GUJARAT. S.A. HUSSAIN, S. ASAD AKHTAR AND 
J.K. TIWARI, Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay 
400 023 

On 2.2.1991, at c 17.00 hrs we reached Nir Vandh at the 
edge of the Great Rann of Kutch for the Flamingo City 
survey. We saw a huge flock of birds forming a pinkish 
white line at a distance and on scanning through the 
binoculars (8 x 30) we found that they were Gulls. We could 
also hear their screaming from where we were c.1/2 km 
away 



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Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



At c 17.30 hrs we visited the place and identified the 
gulls in the flock as Slenderbilled, Larusgenei Breme, except 
for a few c 5-7 Lesser Blackbacked Gulls, Larus fuscus. We 
took a count of the gulls. About 2800 Slenderbilled were 
sitting on a small patch of land surrounded by shallow 
water and they were very restless and vocal. 

The next morning on 3rd February we entered the Rann 
on camel back at c 08.00 hrs. We came across flocks of SBG 
ranging in numbers from c 30 to 200. According to our 
count there were c 5600 SBG and c 5 to 7 Lesser Blackbacked 
Gulls. During our sixteen month field studies in Kutch we 
have never come across such a concentration of SBG. 
Moreover, in our surveys for potential bird ranging sites in 
Kutch, we could hardly see more than 8 to 10 SBG along 
the coastline. One can think of two possibilities to explain 
the unusual concentration of these gulls. 

1 . SBG is a winter visitor to Kutch and here its number 
is augmented by immigrants. It is just possible that 
the concentration we saw was the populations 
dispersing to different parts of Kutch and nearby 
places. 

2. There are reports (Anonymous, march 1991 and 
April 1991) of SBG affected by oil spills in the Gulf 
along with many other species e.g. Great Cormorant, 
Great Blackheaded Gull, Reef Heron, Curlew and 
Pintail. It is just possible that these gulls effected by 
the recent oil spill in the Gulf and changed their 
usual routes towards safer places. 

Reference : 

Newsletter, National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and 

Development. Riyadh. 26-03-91. 
Newsletter for Birdwatchers. Vol.XXXI, No.3&4 pp (14). 

ASSAM : THE MAIN BREEDING GROUND OF 
SPOTBILLED PELICAN. RANJAN KUMAR DAS, 
D.C.F., Senior Wildlife Warden , Rajgarh Road, Byelane I, 
Chandmari, Guwahati, Assam 

Assam is the main breeding ground of Spotbilled 
Pelicans Pelecanus philippensis in the country. Out of the 
total count of 2922 of this species of bird during the South 
Asian Mid-Winter Waterfowl Census of 1990, the major 
chunk of 2236 was found in Assam. Significantly, the 
census did not show the presence of this species in West 
Bengal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Andhra Pradesh 
harbours the second largest population of Spot-billed 
Pelicans next to Assam with 533 nos. 

So the total number of nests, during preparation of this 
report is 206 (155 + 45 + 6) in recent time. During my visit 
to Dibru- Saikhowa Sanctuary in the latter part of June, I 
spotted 4 of this species of bird but failed to collect 
information on their nesting site. 

Obviously, all the nesting sites are within the Protected 
Area insuring their survival. But they are easy victims to 
poachers outside the Protected area. 



In Assam, the nesting sites as observed by different 
persons from time to time are given below: 

No. of Nests Month/Year Place sighted by 

l.KazirangaN.P. 

(i) 600 Nos 1984/85 Koladuar 

Agoratoli Range Eunush Ali, A.C.F. 
(ii) 155 Nos. Feb/March 1991 -do- R.K. Das, D.C.F. 

2. Orang Sanctuary 

45 Nos. 1990 Velajar P.K. Saikia,S.R.F„ 

Dept. of Zoology, 



3. Pabitora Sanctuary 

(i)6Nos. 1987/88 Tuplung 

(ii)6Nos. 1990/91 Tuplung 



Guwahati Univ. 

A. Rabha, D.C.F. 
P. Barua, R.F.O. 



The bird is a local migrant and could be seen in large 

numbers in past around the wetlands of Sibsagar town. But 

the sighting is becoming rare now-a-days as hunting takes 

place unabated. 

r i 

The birds live in colonies for a number of years and the 

highest number of nests was 600 during 1984-85 at 

Koladuar under Eastern Range, Agoratoli, Kaziranga N.P. 

The nests were counted by Sri Eunush Ali, the then A.C.F. 

of the park, but gradually their number decreased and last 

winter I counted only 155 nests. The nests are built at a 

height of 15 to 20 m on Simul Bombax ceiba trees with a 

maximum of 12 nests on a single tree. The colony in 1 984-85 

extended 1.5 km East-West and 0.25 km North to the river 

Brahmaputra. They were counted upto 1500 nos. in an 

afternoon by Sri E. Ali at Debeswari Tapu (River island) of 

Brahmaputra spreading their wings and sunning 

themselves on the sand. 

The breeding colony in Orang and Pobitora Sanctuary 
is quite different. The single nesting tree in Orang is a Ficus 
whereas it is Simul in Pabitora. In both the cases the nests 
are built not too high from the ground. 

Till 1981, about 150 nests could be seen at Mihimukh, 
the main tourist spot at Kaziranga. But due to disturbance m 
generated by heavy tourism, they deserted the site and 
shifted further North- East up to Baralimara and finally 
settled at Koladuar. 

In Kaziranga, the nest building starts from the later part 
of September unlike other places in India. The whorl of the 
Simul tree with four or more strong branches are preferred 
for building the nests to get better support. The 
circumference of the nest is about 2 mtr with sufficient 
depth to accommodate the parents with their youngs. 3-4 
eggs are laid in a clutch but in a captive condition, the gap 
between laying of the eggs may extend upto 6 days. 
Though the incubation is done by both the parents, the 
male plays the leading role. The incubation temperature 
may be 36.96'C to 37.09 °C (Zoo's Print, Issue - August 1990, 
Dr S. Paulraj et al). Hatching takes 30-33 days. The young 
require 5 months or slightly less time to fly but till then the 
whole pelican colony remains orchestrated by their calls. 
Even the elders are seen clapping their long spotted bills. 



Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



13 



Most of the nests are deserted in the months of February 
but few remain up to March. The young attain sexual 
maturity after two years under captive condition. 

Their feeding behaviour is very interesting - the young 
join the elders and together they drive the fish to a corner 
by flapping the wings on the surface of the water. The 
pink-yellowish pouch of the lower mandible is used for 
fishing as a sieve. 

They fly in 'Echelon formation' but sometimes singly. 
They descend suddenly only to soar again spectacularly 
and like Vultures and Adjutant Storks, they even circle in 
the sky. 

Suggestions for managing the nesting sites 

1 . Burning should never be practised under the pelican 
colony. Manual cutting of grasses are sufficient to 
allow penetration by herbivores. Annual grass 
cutting should be completed before the birds build 
their nests, i.e. before 20th September. 

2. Tourism should be controlled to reduce disturbance. 
A Wetland separates the colony at Koladuar 
(Kaziranga) from the main road inside and no visitor 
should be allowed to go beyond this point. Of course 
a few nests are seen built on Simul trees just near the 
road and this is a good opportunity for studying 
their behaviour. 

BATHING BEHAVIOUR OF SOME GARDEN 
BIRDS. S. DEVASAHAYAM and ANITA 
DEVASAHAYAM, M26/15 KSHB Colony, 
Malaparamba, Calicut 673 009 

We had a bird bath in the compound of our residence at 
Malaparamba in Calicut (Kerala) which was a source of 
attraction to many birds. We placed the bath in such a way 
that we were able to observe the birds at close quarters from 
within the house itself. Fourteen species of birds visited the 
bath during the past two years and among them the tree 
pie Dendrocitta vagabunda, redwhiskered bulbul Pycontous 
jocosus, jungle babbler Turdoides affinis and magpie-robin 
Copsychus saularis were the most common and detailed 
observations were carried out on these four species alone 
which are highlighted here. 



Season 

The birds generally visited the bath during September 
to May. At Calicut the South West monsoon sets in during 
early June and it rains almost everyday till the end of 
August. The birds probably avoid taking a bath during this 
season since they may be getting wet frequently. However 
on a few occasions jungle babblers took a bath even when 
there was a slight drizzle. 

Time and period 

Though all the species visited the bath throughout the 
day, they preferred to visit it more during the afternoon and 
evening hours. The earliest visiting time observed was 7.25 
hrs (redwhiskered bulbul) and the latest 18.05 hrs 
(magpie-robin). During the hot summer months many of 
the birds visited the bath on more than one occasion a day. 
The magpie-robin spent the maximum time while taking a 
bath (mean: 74.0 seconds) and the tree pie the minimum 
(mean: 36.9 seconds) (Table 1). 

Type of bath 

All the four species got into the bath and shook their 
head sideways while dipping their head in water and 
ruffling the wings, thus getting wet. The number of times 
the wings were ruffled during a bath was maximum in 
magpie-robin (mean: 15.9) and minimum in jungle babbler 
(4.2); the redwhiskered bulbul and tree pie ruffled its wings 
7.0 and 8.3 times, respectively. The tree pie and jungle 
babblers got thoroughly wet and sometimes the latter was 
unable to fly immediately when suddenly disturbed. 
Jungle babblers behaved like rowdy school boys in a 
swimming pool by virtually falling into the bath and 
splashing the water all around to the accompaniment of 
harsh shrieks. Generally all the four species were reluctant 
to get into the water when it is dirty. The tree pie was very 
timid at the bath and did not alight down immediately on 
reaching the vicinity and flew away at the slightest 
distu r bance. However the other three species were bolder. 
The redwhiskered bulbul and tree pie visited the bath in 
pairs during most of the occasions. However they did not 
get into the bath at the same time but one waited nearby till 
its partner finished its bath. Jungle babblers visited the bath 
in a group and sometimes an individual avoided taking a 
bath. 



Table 1 Visiting period and time spent at bird bath 



Bird 




Visiting period (%) 




Visiting 


time 


Time spent (sec) 




6-9 


9-12 12-15 


15-18 


Earliest 


Latest 


Range Mean 




hrs 


hrs hrs 


hrs 


hrs 


hrs 




Tree pie 





12 48 


40 


9.25 


17.10 


20-55 36.9 


Redwhiskered 














bulbul 


16 


20 28 


36 


7.25 


17.15 


15-125 52.4 


Jungle babbler 


8 


4 36 


52 


8.15 


17.15 


20-60 45.4 


Magpie-robin 


8 


8 56 


28 


8.25 


18.05 


45-150 574.0 



(Based on 25 observations per species). 



14 



Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



Other activities 

The magpie-robin and tree pie drank water during 48 
and 40% of the occasions respectively, while taking a bath. 
The Redwhiskered bulbul and jungle babblers drank water 
only during 20% of the occasions. The number of sips 
ranged from 1-3 in all species. Generally the birds drank 
water before beginning their bath and rarely during the 
middle of it. The tree pie and jungle babblers were very 
vociferous at the bath. Both the species advertised their 
presence on reaching the bath by their harsh calls/shrieks 
that continued during the bath also. The Redwhiskered 
bulbul made a lively chirpy call on arriving at the bath and 
a 'trrr' call at the bath. The magpie-robin was generally 
silent. The magpie-robin and jungle babblers also pecked 
at ants and other insects near the bath. All the species 
completed the preliminary preening by alighting on a 
nearby tree but flew away to a convenient spot to complete 
it. 

Interactions among species 

Air the species except the redwhiskered bulbul were 
very aggressive and did not allow another species to take 
bath simultaneously. This may be due to the smaller size of 
the bath (25 cm diameter) arid they would probably behave 

Fig.l Interactions among birds at bird bath 
Tree pie ► Magpie-robin 

Jungle babbler } „ Redwhiskered bulbul 

(Explanation: Tree pie ► Jungle babbler =Tree pie 

chased jungle babbler on 1 occasion) 

differently when provided with a bigger bath. The 
interactions among the various species are summed up in 
Fig.l. 

STRAY BIRDS ON THE INDIAN INSTITUTE OF 
SCIENCE CAMPUS, BANGALORE. DR R } RAN] IT 
DANIELS, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian 
Institute of Science , Bangalore 560 012 

October and early November are times when migrant 
birds on passage halt at the campus of the Indian Institute 
of Science. Many stray records of such birds have been 
reported from this institute now and then. However, the 
most remarkable sighting I wish to announce is that of a 
black capped kingfisher Halcyon pileata that 1 saw at a pool 
of water within the campus in the evening of 2.11 .1991. This 
species of kingfisher is being sighted for the first time in 
Bangalore. Though a species of mangrove forests and hill 
streams, the blackcapped kingfisher is reportedly a 
wandering bird venturing far inland. 

On28.10.1991Isawa woodcock Scolopax rusticola fly out 
during the day from a drainage channel lined with dense 
vegetation in front of CES in the institute. Is this also a first 



report for Bangalore? This wintering wader is more often 
sighted in the hills of peninsular India. 

The inclusion of the above two species has made the 
total list of birds sighted at the IISc campus 141. This is 
remarkable for its size of 1 .7 km 

OUR NATIVE WOODCOCK. THOMAS F. MARTIN, 
12(16- Edward Road, Bangalore 560 052 

Woodcock Scolopax rusticola is a member of the family 
Charadriidae but, unlike its close relative the snipe who are 
intimately connected with water and live as close as . 

possible to it, had forsaken the usual habitat of its family 
group and took to living in thick shady forests and boggy 
glades, and a solitary existence. The locations of its habitat 
are those heavily forested and wooded areas containing 
moist and leafy bottom lands, which enable the bird to 
probe for its daily fare in the soft earth and among the litter 
of fallen dead leaves. Inspite of this environmental # 
disparity with the other members of its family, the 
woodcock has retained the same general structure of the 
snipe but with a distended belly which makes it very much 
heavier than its close relative the Jack Snipe Gallinago 
minima. 

The humble earthworm is the a la carte of the 
woodcock, on which the bird chiefly and voraciously feeds 
- reportedly consuming its own body weight of such food 
in a day. When faced with a shortage of its favourite food, , 

scolopax rusticola then resorts for feeding on other forms of 
animal and vegetable matter associated with living or 
growing among the fallen dead leaves which hold a fair 
amount of moisture content. 

The species is known to become active with the coming 
of that fading golden glow that descends at the closing hou r 
of twilight, when it makes a roving search for its staple food 
in the soft earth or among the fallen dead leaves. The bird 
uses its long flexible bill which acts as a sort of 
probe-cum-tongs to extract its food from the soft earth or 
pile of fallen dead leaves. Scientific studies of the 
woodcock's anatomy confirm that the upper mandible 
provides for movement independently of the lower half, 
and that the lower end of the bill is arrayed with a number 
of highly sensitive nerve endings which act as a sort of ' 

probing instrument to help it discriminate between edible 
food and that which is not fit for consumption. The bird is 
also reputed to have a very keen sense of hearing, and some 
scientists believe that it can pick up the sound waves of any 
feeble movement under the ground on which it rests or 
treads when foraging. Unlike most other birds that have 
the ears located behind the eyes, the woodcock's ears are 
located directly below the eyes. Using this acute sense of 
touch and hearing, the bird is well equipped to ferret its 
daily morsel of food. Scolopax rusticola is also favoured with 
eyes that are set far back and high on the head, a condition 
which allows it to see in all directions without having to 
turn its head. 



Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



15 



In general appearance, Scolopax rusticola resembles its 
close relative the jack snipe Gallinago minima, but is much 
heavier, of greater length and more chubby in shape. Five 
yellowish lateral stripes across the head and four dark 
brown bands in between extend from the crown down to 
the base of the nape. The eyes are large and prominent, and 
encircled by a narrow ring of yellowish hue. The throat, 
breast and belly are of creamish coloured background 
overridden with numerotis light-brown crescents to create 
a somewhat barred effect. The back, rump and wing coverts 
are graced with a blend of duskyxwhite, light and dark 
brown, and form a cryptic pattern. All the feathers of the 
remiges are margined and tipped with black or dark brown 
to create a mottled pattern which aids in camouflaging the 
woodcock when at rest on the ground. The upper tail 
coverts are dark brown with a bandOf dusky white at the 
tips. The long slender bill has a^yellowish tinge which 
darkens at the tip. The feet, tarsi and ankles are of a faded 
yellow tinge. The species attain an average length of 36 cm, 
weigh 325 gms and have a wing-span of 63 cm when full 
grown. 

Some well informed sources claim that the male of the 
specimens is imbued with a polygamous bent and that 
during the mating seasons may service several females 
without actually pairing off, and that the female alone 
incubates the eggs. Field studies reveal that the woodcock 
carry their young chicks between the feet and fly off with 
them to some safer place when sensing danger, one chick 
at a time being carried in such emergency. When disturbed 
or startled, the woodcock lifts very quickly with a swishing 
sound and alternating right and left turns, and flies away 
to land some distance away. 

Scolopax rusticola is a widely distributed resident species 
in many regions of the Old World located between latitudes 
28° and 60" North - a distribution which apparently gave 
ornithologists' a clue to refer to the species as the 'Eurasian 
Woodcock". In our India, the species are known to breed in 
areas stretching from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, and 
is a migrant during the winter months when it shifts to 
Nepal, Assam and some of the hilly regions of our Sou thern 
States. 

References 

Salim Ali and S Dillon Ripley (1989). 'A Pictorial Guide to the Birds 

of the Indian Subcontinenf 
Editions Rencontre, English translation (1975), Leisure Arts, London, 

L/Jv. 

GREAT HORNBILL STUDY COMMENCES IN 
SOUTH INDIA. R. KANNAN, Hornbill Project, Indira 
Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Top Slip 642 141, via Pollachi, 
Tamil Nadu 

I have commenced a two-year Ph.D. project on the 
conservation ecology of the Great Pied Hornbill in the 
Western Ghats of Southern India. I am affiliated with the 
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkasas, 
U.S.A. I have established base camp at Top Slip in the 
Anaimalai Hills. 



This is an appeal for information. I want to know the 
exact distribution of the bird in the Western Ghats, and the 
status of the species in different areas. Even reports of stray 
sight records are welcome. My project involves three 
important areas of investigation: Monitoring of the 
f rui t-resource base for the bird, study of nest-site characters 
and the current availability of those parameters within the 
range, and a quantification of its foraging habitat. If you 
have known the bird to nest in any locality please furnish 
me with all relevant information (date, exact location, tree 
involved etc.). Also information about persecution of the 
bird (especially by tribal folk) will be very important. 

The bird is obviously rare and declining in numbers and 
in range. A project of this sort, involving a rare and 
nomadic frugivore, can only be successful in doing 
something concrete for the bird's survival if it encompasses 
a large area. Hence it is important for me to pool 
information from a very wide range. Every contributor will 
be gratefully acknowledged in the dissertation and 
publications to follow. On behalf of the Great Pied 
Hornbill, thanks for your help. 

ALBINO COMMON KINGFISHER. MOHIT 
AGGARWAL, B-13, East ofKailash, New Delhi 110 065 
On the 5th of this month, I made a short trip to 
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. While I was busy photographing 
cormorants I came across an albino common kingfisher 
Alcedo atthis. For a moment I was stunned to see this 
absolutely white bird flying across but after couple of 
minutes of observation I realised it was an albino common 
kingfisher. A friend of mine, Mr Vivek Menon, who was 
along with me at that time also confirmed it was an albino 
Common kingfisher. It was sighted along the metalled road 
on the right hand side of the sanctuary, when one goes from 
the temple towards the Python point. 

VISIT OF BIRD ENTHUSIASTS TO DHOLKA, 
AHMEDABAD. D1LHAS JAFFRI, Tanvir Manzil, 
Dholka 387 91 0, Dist Ahmedahad 

This has reference to your editorial which appeared in 
NLW,31(7&8). 

You will be interested to know that I am based at 
Dholka, a town about 45 kms south of Ahmedabad. My 
home town is situated at the hub of migratory bird activity 
as all the major water bodies of Gujarat including 
Nalsarovar, Thol, Narda, Pariaj and Kaneval lakes are in 
the periphery of just 40 kms around it. This gives me an 
inspiration to host bird watchers. 

I will welcome bird enthusiasts in the group of six 
persons during winter months (Dec-Mar). The winged 
winter visitors frequenting the above said lakes are greater 
and lesser flamingo, greylag and bar headed geese, 
mallard, pintail, shoveller and many other migratory and 
resident duck species, demoiselle and common cranes 
apart from resident sarus and scores of other water fowls. 



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Newsletter for Birdwatchers 



If the bird watchers so desire, I can also take them to 
show black bucks at Velavadar national park and Lothal 
museum housing relics of antiquities. 

I can arrange for stay and travel by jeep. The cost per 
person per day works out to around Rs.250/- including 
stay, food and jeep travel. 

Bird watchers are welcome to have correspondence 
with meat the address furnished above. 

A HUGE FLOCK OF SWALLOWS, SWIFTS AND 
MARTINS IN YAMUNA NAGAR, HARYANA. 

RAJIV SINGH KALSI, Department of Zoology, M.L.N. 
College, Yamuna nagar 135 001, Hdryana 

On the evening (17.45 hrs) ofJthSeptember, 1991, while 
surveying Grey Partridge Francolinuspondicerianus in fields 
along the edges of the Western Yamuna Canal (307'N, 
77°18'E; Yamuna Nagar), I came across a huge 
congregation of swallows, swifts, and martins. From a 
distance it looked like a big swarm of honey bees. 
Observing carefully, I identified Swallows Hirundo rustica, 
Wiretailed Swallows Hirundo smithii, House Swifts Apus 
affinis and Collared Sand Martins Riparia riparia. The flock 
was spread over a large area over the canal and adjacent 
fields. Accurate counting was not possible since the birds 
were flying about very swiftly as is typical of these species. 
Therefore, I tried to estimate the numbers by 'block 
method', using the field of view of a 7 x 35 binoculars as a 
block. I counted 160 blocks with 90 to 100 birds per block 
for ten blocks, giving an estimated flock size of 14400 to 
16000 birds. At 19.00 hrs, the birds started gathering in a 
large clump of reeds, tall grass and Typha on a big island in 
the middle of canal for roosting and by 20.00 hrs whole of 
the flock disappeared into the roost. Next day very few 
birds were left at the roost, which probably means that it 
was a gathering for migration. 

WATERFOWL CENSUS - ADVICE REQUIRED 

DR V.K. SHUKLA, Department of Botany, MLK College, 
Balrampur271201,UP 

I am a reader of Newsletter for Birdwatchers for many 
years. Gradually the newsletter is improving not only in 
getup, in material also. Eastern Uttar Pradesh is full of 
Waterbodies marsh lands and especially "terai" region is 
very rich in avifauna. But not many persons are interested 
in birds in this region. In fact I have yet to meet an amature 
bird watcher belonging to eastern U.P. 

Every winter your appeal for waterfowl census lures me 
to lakes full of birds. Though I have formed quite a 
comprehensive list of birds found here, I have no proper 
training to count them and keep proper records. Any 
advice for me? 

I am a lecturer in Botany in a P.G. College and I am 
inducing my students to be birdwatchers, but they are not 
too interested as yet. 



ON THE FAMED BULBUL OF PERSIAN POETRY. 

DR J.C. UTTANGI , 36, Mission Compound , Dharwad 
580001 

Recently an ornithologist friend asked me which bird 
could have been that famed bulbul of Persian Poetry. Was 
it a bulbul or a nightingale? 

I decided to investigate the question, and looked 
through all my bird books. First of all I referred to the Fauna 
of British India (F.B.I.) series, and then the Book of Indian 
Birds (Salim Ali); the Field Guide to the Birds of South East 
Asia (Ben King Woodcock and Dickinson); and after that 
the Collins Hand Guide to the Birds of the Indian 
sub-continent (Woodcock); the Birds of Britain and Europe 
(Hammond); the Birds of Heath and Woodland (Gooders), 
the Book on Birds published by LIFE Nature Library; 
Greizmeck's Vol.9, and a few journals of BNHS, Bombay, 
and other available periodicals but with no success. A hint, 
however, was found in the 1981 edition of the Book on Sixty 
Indian Birds by Dharmakumarsinhji and Lavkumar, where 
the authors mention (page 73) that the Redvented Bulbul 
Pycnonotus cafer, is in no way related to the famed bulbul of 
Persian Poetry. As a last resource I turned to the 
Encyclopedia and Dictionaries. On page 1132 of Kittel's 
Kannada-English dictionary, against Bulbul it is mentioned 
- "The so-called Persian (Indian) Nightingale, Pycnonotus 
jocosus which means that the Redwhiskered Bulbul is the 
so-called Nightingale. The Oxford English Dictionary on 
page 144, describes the bulbul as - "The Eastern Song 
thrush, a singer (poetical)". The 20th Century Chambers 
English Dictionary gives the description as - "Persian 
Nightingale" really of the thrush family; a sweet singer 
(Arab). On the other hand, the Basic Everyday 
Encyclopedia (New York) on page 378 describes 
Nightingale as "Persian Bulbul of Asia - is a species of 
Nightingale", a clue which seems very close and it seems 
fairly reasonable to believe that the famed bulbul of Persian 
Poetry has poetical relationship with the Nightingale of 
eastern Asia. The European Nightingale, Luscinia m - 
megarhynchos and L.m. africana, which occur in Iran, Iraq, 
Syria, Afghanistan and Caucasus, are not found in Indian 
territory. The true Persian Nightingale is the sub species 
L.m. africana and it could also be the famed bulbul of Persian 
Poetry which Umar Khayyam refers to in his 'Rubayat". It 
is darker and larger in size compared to L.m. hafizi which is 
paler in colour and occurs along the Volga, Sinkiang and 
North Eastern region of Afghanistan. 

On the other hand, the family of Bulbuls covers 
thrush-sized birds which are very tame and have no fear of 
man and are kept as cage birds in some places, although 
they are not real songsters like nightingales or thrush 
nightingales. They are talkative, loud and lively rather than 
musical. For their characteristic pik-non-note which they 
inherit to produce so marvellously that Ornithologists 
recommended them to be included in a separate family, 
Pycnonotidae. 

If any one has more information on this subject the same 
may be published for the benefit of readers of the NLBW. 





International Conference on 

Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation in South and West Asia, 

Karachi, Pakistan, 14-20 December 1991. 

Convened by 

International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, Asian Wetland Bureau 

National Council for the Conservation of Wildlife, Pakistan 

Preliminary Report by C. Perennou, Scientific Officer, IWRB and S. Sridhar, Regional Coordinator, AWC 




The Karachi conference on Wetland and Waterfowl 
Conservation in South and West Asia, was a milestone in the 
movement for conservation of wetlands and waterfowl 
population. 

The theme of the conference was 'Future strategies for 
conservation of wetlands and waterfowl in South and West Asia'. It 
provided an unique opportunity for Scientists and 
Conservationists from all over Asia to discuss with the 
representatives from IWRB, AWB, Ramsar Convention, Bonn 
Convention, World Bank and ADB issues relating to future 
wetland priorities; improvement and conservation of wetlands 
and migratory species; evaluation of status and threats to 
waterfowl and wetlands; fly way management strategies wetland 
management programmes and emphasised the need to integrate 
all wetland conservation plans. 

The Conference was attended by 119 participants from 22 
countries. India was well represented with 20 participants led by 
Mr.S.A. Hussain. 

The Conference met in seven main sessions in the morning 
where in about 50 papers were presented on : 

• Regional reports and priority actions, 

• Status and priority actions, 

• Wetland conservation Issues, 

• Management of Wetlands and conserv: jn of Biodiversity, 

• National wetland and waterfowl .policies and priority 
actions 

• Role of development assistance Agencies in Wetland 
conservation and conversion, 

• International conventions and cooperation. 
Evenings were devoted to Workshops on : 

• Siberian Crane, 

• Ramsar Regional meeting, 

• Meeting of Asian Waterfowl Census Nationalcoordinators, 

• Threatened Waterfowl Species in South and West Asia, 

• Weed management in Asian Wetlands, 

A number of Posters were displayed at a special poster session. 

A mid-conference excursion to Haleji Lake for Case study of 
Management issues and education approaches was also arranged. 

A document "A Status Overview of Asian Wetlands" compiled 
by D.A. Scott and Colin M. Poole, which was presented at the 
conference was of special interest. Some of the salient features 



concerning Indian Wetlands are given here :- 

India's large number of wetlands, diverse wetland flora and 
fauna and high human population pressure make it a priority 
country for wetland conservation. There is a great need for a more 
general overview of the national wetland policy. Publication of an 
updated version of the existing wetland inventory should 
stimulate more field work in the less well known areas. These 
include Logtak Lake and other wetlands in Manipur, the riverine 
marshes of Upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, the wetlands 
in Manipur, the wetlands of eastern Uttar Pradesh, the Chaurs of 
North Bihar and West Bengal, the Cochin Backwaters, and the 
wetlands of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The network of 
protected areas should be expanded to include representative 
examples of all wetlands types in India, and additional sites 
designated under Ramsar. 

Local scientists and conservations are very active and well 
trained, and there are many government departments, academic 
institutions and non-governmental organisations involved in 
wetland research, management and protection. Various 
cooperative programmes are now being developed to undertake 
research on wetlands in Jammu & Kashmir, Bihar, Orissa and 
Madhya Pradesh. The Department of Environment has been 
gathering data on wetlands for many years as part of its All-India 
Wetland Survey, and has published preliminary lists of sites. 
India acceded to the Ramsar Convention in 1981 and designated 
two of its most spectacular wetlands, Chilka Lake and Keoladeo 
National Park (Bharatpur), for inclusion in the list. 

The inventory of Indian wetlands produced for the Directory 
of Asian Wetlands is far from comprehensive, being heavily 
biased towards the well-known sites, most of which are in 
national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The annual mid-winter 
waterfowl counts, initiated in 1987, have been particularly 
successful in promoting a greater interest in wetlands and 
waterfowl, and have produced a great deal of new information on 
Indian wetlands. Public awareness campaigns relating to 
wetlands have met with considerable success, and there is now a 
significant middle class element in Indian society with an interest 
in conservation. 

Most Seriously Threatened Wetlands in India : 

Dal Lake 

Wular Lake 

Harike Lake 

Jheels in vicinity of Haidergarh 

Daharand Sauj (Soj) Jheels 

Southern Gulf of Kutch 

Gulf of Khambhat 

Khabartal 



Dipor (Deepar) Bheel 

Logtak Lake 

Salt Lakes Swamp 

The Sunderbans 

Chilka Lake 

Kolleru Lake 

Estuaries of the Karnataka coast 

Kalivcli Tank and Yedayanthittu Estuary 

The Cochin Backwaters \ 

Wetlands in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands 

Wetlands types in most urgent need of attention :- 

1. Low protection, high threat 

Provinces in which a low proportion of sites arc protected and 
a high proportion are under threat. These are clearly the areas of 
greatest concern; there is an urg ent n eed'for improvement in the 
level of protection at existing reserves and establishment of 
further reserves to safeguard wetland types which may well be 
unique to the region concerned. The following wetlands fall into 
this category in India. 

(a) Wetlands of the Indus Delta 

(b) Wetlands of the northern Gangetic Plain in Uttar Pradesh, 
North Bihar and West Bengal 

(c) Coastal lagoons and estuarine systems of th west coast of 
peninsular India in Karnataka and Kerala 

2. Medium to high protection, high threat 

Provinces in which a medium to high proportion of sites are 
protected, but also in which a high proportion are threatened. In 
most cases, the priority here is in improvement in the protection 
and management of existing reserves, rather than the creation of 
new reserves. The following wetlands fall into this category in 
India. 

(a) Lakes and marshes in the Vale of Kashmir 

(b) Lakes and marshes in Manipur 

(c) The flood plain of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers, 

(d) The Sunderbans and other coastal wetlands at the head of 
the Bay of Bengal 

(e) Estuaries and lagoons on the east coast of peninsular India 

Further details of these wetland provinces including lists of 
relevant sites are given in the Directory of Asian Wetlands 

Waterfowl Counts 

For waterfowl counts in India , the symposium reinforced the 
message that if only the same wetland s are covered year after year, 
the trend analysis to forecast long term trends is possible and this 
is vital in order to detect threatened waterfowl species/ 
populations or wetlands. The objectives of AWC can be achieved 
only if this requirement is fulfilled. 

Problems related to waterfowl count can be overcome with 
improved regional coordination and periodic training course for 
counters. IWRB and AWB will welcome such programmes and 
are ready to provide all assistance to the coordinators. 



THREATENED WATERFOWL OF SOLTH & WEST ASH 


REGIONAL POPULATION ESTIMATE 


O : Not threatened- 


globally, only 


in the region 




+ : Present other regions of the world 




? : Relies on partial 


or old data 








South 


West 


Winters 
Elsewhere 


Spot-Billed Pelican 




6000 




Dalmatian Pelican 


1000 


1500 


+ 


Pygmy Cormorant 




10-20,000? 




(African Darter) 




100? 


+ 


Indian Darter 


2000 




+ 


White- Bellied Heron 


100? 




+ 


Lesser Adjutant 


1000 




+ 


Greater Adjutant 


100 




+ 


(Black-Necked Stork) 


300? 




+ 


Lesser White-Fronted Goose 


25,000? 




+ 


Bar-Headed Goose 




20,000 


+ 


Red-Breasted Goose 




100? 


+ 


White-Winged Wood Duck 


100? 




+ 


Marbled Teal 


2000 


15,000 


+ 


Baer's Pochard 


100? 




+ 


Ferruginous Duck 


5000 


2000? 


+ 


White-Headed Duck 


200 


4000 


+ 


Black-Necked Crane 


300? 




+ 


Siberian Crane 


10 


10 


+ 


(Watercock) 


500 




+ 


Masked Finfoot 


100? 




+ 


Sociable Plover 


100's? 


1000's? 


+ 


Slender-Billed Curlew 


r. 


ID'S? 


■ + 


Asiatic Dowitcher 


; ~ ' 50? 




+ 


Spoonbilled Sandpiper 


250 




+ 


Nordmann's Greenshank 


100 




+ 


White-Eyed Gull 




300+ 


+? 


Black-Bellied Tern 


300 






Pallas Fish-Eagle 


200? 


7 


+ 


White-Tailed Eagle 




10-s? 


300?+ 


Note: these estimates are very tentative, and prior 


to any AWC 


data analysis 




C. PERENNOU 



From the five year data, 410 important Indian wetlands in 
ABSOLUTE NEED OF COUNTING have been identified. These 
wetlands had in average 92% of all wintering waterfowl, 
although they represent only 25% of those ever counted. Regional 
coordinators have been assigned the task of consistent coverage 
of these wetlands. 

It was agreed during a meeting of co-ordinators held at 
Karachi, on 16 December 1991, that as many wetlands as possible 
should be counted as long as volunteers are available. 

For Karnataka 39 wetlands have been identified for consistent 
coverage in future. The excellent collaboration between 
Birdwatchers Field Club of Bangalore and the Forest Department 
over the years was particularly praised and the organisers now 
look forward to such cooperation between Non-Governmental 
Organisations and Forest Departments in other Indian states as 
well. 



Participate in Asian Mid- Winter Waterfowl Census 
10-26 January 1992